5 Spicy Latina Stereotypes & Why They Need to Stop
Raquel Reichard | On 19, Jul 2013
Instead of conjuring up thoughts of a heavily seasoned casserole, terms like “spicy” “hot” “exotic” and “juicy” evoke images of sexy Latinas donning skin-tight dresses that accentuate their large breasts and bodacious behinds. Full, cherry lips popping from their olive skin replaces thoughts of a thick, raw T-bone steak spilling red juices.
The words used to describe Latina bodies figuratively reduce Latinas to food that’s craved, salivated over, attained, devoured and then flushed away.
This is not exactly surprising considering that women of color have historically been exoticized and sexualized but never really valued.
Although on the surface being considered desirable seems like a positive thing, scholars like Isabel Molina-Guzmán and Angharad N. Valdivia argue that Latina bodies are desired because of their “otherness,” meaning it’s their marginalization that leads to their sexualization.
They are still not considered equal.
Thus, no matter how much the stereotypical curvy and sexy Latina body is yearned for, the human walking in the body is robbed of their agency and seen as nothing more than something to be looked at and conquered.
And although there’s a wide spectrum of Latina aesthetics and characteristics, trite stereotypes stemming from racist, sexist images by Chiquita Banana are continuously perpetuated through all areas of the mainstream media today.
It’s time to recognize these images and discuss why they’re problematic.
Since the days of vaudeville, Latinas have been hypersexualized and exoticized. Entertainers like the “Brazilian Bombshell” Carmen Miranda, with her vibrant costumes, accented English and sensual dances, quickly became fetishized. Her exotic sex appeal steered her into Hollywood but also allowed for only one, repeated role: The sexy, lustful, Latina “other.”
Today, widely recognized Latina actresses are still filling these stereotypical roles. Eva Mendes plays into the sexually manipulative, promiscuous, sexy and fierce-tempered role in “The Women,” and Roselyn Sanchez, Sofía Vergara and Jaci Velasquez take on hypersexualized, man-crazed, spitfire characters in “Chasing Papi.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with playing an ultra sexy, feisty Latina. The problem with this role is that it seems to be the only one available for talented Latina actresses, unless of course there’s a maid needed. Well-established Latina actresses who have become household names are still cast as sexy, vindictive dead lovers, sexy, hot-blooded ex-wives or sexy, badass girlfriends.
From mature sitcoms, to teen shows, to reality T.V., Latinas are almost always cast as the spicy Latina. The most obvious example of the stereotype in T.V. today is Sofía Vergara’s sexy, loud and boisterous role as Gloria in the show “Modern Family.”
But in youth media, Naya Rivera’s role as Santana Lopez in the hit show “Glee” also plays into the stereotype. Santana, the hot-headed Latina who saunters around in mini skirts and form-fitting dresses, dances sensually to provocative tunes and has no problem telling people off.
Producers even carefully choose everyday women who fit the stereotype for reality T.V. shows. Love and Hip Hop’s Joseline Hernandez’s feisty personality, voluptuous body and eroticized images mirror those of Basketball Wives’ Evelyn Lozada, who Latina magazine described as “one Boricua you do not want to mess with.” It’s almost as if there are casting calls specifically for hot-blooded, passionate, sexy, Latinas. Oh wait, there are.
Another problem that develops from the spicy Latina stereotype is that it’s the only version of Latinas we ever see on our screens. Not all Latinas are curvy, not all care to be sexy, and not all Latinas exhibit the sass of Santana Lopez. The perpetuating stereotype of the spicy Latina has created a sole, homeogenzied Latina identity that can leave any Latina outside of this Western patriarchal Latina ideal feeling short of their Latinidad. It completely erases the group’s diversity.
From English-language performances by Latina singers to sexy video vixens, Latinas in music are usually “hot tamales.” Concerts by Jennifer Lopez are summed up through a snapshot of her derrière, while seconds-long videos of Shakira moving her hips sensually are the only clips of her onstage performances to gain airtime.
The bodies of popular Latina singers are almost always eroticized. So much so that even Lopez said, “People equate sexy with promiscuous. They think that because I’m shaped this way, I must be scandalous … But it’s just the opposite.”
Lopez shouldn’t have to make such comments, but because her body, exoticized and sexualized, is seen as “other,” it’s thought to be public sexual property, leaving it open for discussion and criticism. This is another problem with the spicy Latina stereotype. It robs Latinas of their sexual agency, and turns them into sexualized female bodies, or body parts, for male erotic desires. Latina bodies don’t belong to them but, instead, to a public that’s ready to scrutinize and shame them or add them to a sexual fantasy.
The hypersexualization of Latinas, to me, seems to be most extreme in advertising.
L’Oréal Paris advertises its Volume Million Lashes Excess mascara with a commercial featuring an attractive Latina celebrity, Eva Longoria, wearing a sexy red dress. Longoria even falls into a bed of roses and accentuates the word “drama” when describing the mascara.
In a Bud Light commercial, actress Zoe Saldana dons a sultry, short, laced, black dress and seductively whispers, “I’ll do it.” With red lips, big-hooped earrings and a cleavage-baring dress, Sofía Vergara passionately dances her way to a Diet Pepsi while “whatever Lola wants, Lola gets” is sung in the background of a Pepsi commercial.
The same hackneyed stereotypes of sexy, promiscuous and devious Latinas come up in each of these commercials. And, like lots of advertisements, they promote a disconnect between women of this flawless and desirable dream world and real-life Latinas who don’t gussy themselves up to sit on a beat-up recliner or sensually dance there way to soft drinks.
Latinas are also sexualized in the news media, with the most overt images being broadcast in Spanish-language media outlets. “Weather girls” can almost always be seen wearing curve-hugging dresses with plunging necklines or even midriff-baring crop tops with skinny jeans. But even news anchors on more “serious” programs like “Primer Impacto,” though dressed more “professionally,” are much more sexualized than female anchors of English-language outlets.
In a Google search of “Latina news anchors,” three out of the first five results are about “hot” or “sexy” anchors. This, again, shows that the spicy Latina stereotype is problematic, as it reduces smart, talented and dedicated professionals to body parts, outfits and hairstyles. It sends the message that the way you look is far more important than who you are and all that you can do.
It’s true that some Latinas are sexy, but words like “spicy” “hot” “exotic” and “juicy” are constantly being used to fetishize Latinas, marginalize them and create an impossible standard for young women and girls to live up to. Recognizing how Latinas are sexualized and exotized in all areas of the media provides the opportunity for discussion and can inspire a movement to counter these stereotyped images.
Written by Raquel Reichard
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